Working From Home: Do You Still Need to Dress Up?

working from home

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Working from home, or even telecommuting part-time, is exciting and comforting and allows you to be more productive than you think. We here at The Cheat Sheet work from home and know just how awesome and productive it actually is. And this work from home (or wherever you heart desires) trend is growing: From 2005 to 2012, America’s telecommuting workforce increased by about 80%, according to the newest census data available on this topic. Additionally, there’s great news for those who work from home. A 2013 study out of Stanford University found that employees who worked from home were a little more productive in a given week than had they been at the office. They observed that at-home employees made, on average, 13.5% more calls per week than their office counterparts, which roughly translated into a whole extra workday every week, all because of a change in scenery.

However, if you’re switching from working at an office to working at home, it can be a pretty big change. Besides setting up a schedule for yourself to adhere to, keeping it as close to a normal work day as possible, there is something else to consider in regard to productivity: Should you dress up?

While the idea of comfortable work attire is appealing, there’s no doubt that what a person wears can affect the way they feel, which in turn can really affect their job performance, especially with the added distraction of working from home. Although there is no hard evidence to suggest that you should or shouldn’t dress a certain way when you work from home, the only way to accurately gauge your individual productivity is to experiment for yourself, by trying all options (formal, casual, and pajamas) to see what works best in measuring your overall productivity.

Though there seems to be a lack of consensus on whether the way you dress can impact productivity, a study out of Northwestern University proves that certain types of clothing can systematically influence the wearer’s psychological processes and perception. Researchers Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky found that when they put white coats on their subjects they became more focused. But it couldn’t be just any white coat: “Wearing a lab coat described as a doctor’s coat increased sustained attention compared to wearing a lab coat described as a painter’s coat, and compared to simply seeing or even identifying with a lab coat described as a doctor’s coat,” the researchers wrote. ‘The influence of clothes thus depends on wearing them and their symbolic meaning.”

Further, another study published in Human Resource Development Quarterly found that you don’t exactly need to dress up to be productive: “Respondents felt most authoritative, trustworthy, and competent when wearing formal business attire but friendliest when wearing casual or business casual attire.”

Mid adult businessman writing on clipboard in home office, bald

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What’s more, a study sponsored by The Master’s College published the following conclusions on whether casual dress has an effect on productivity: “There is an effect on… performance in the workplace because of casual dress… Casual dress has equally positive and negative effects, and… dress codes may or may not be necessary for professional performance.” It seems that overall, attire is a personal preference, especially when you’re working from home (which you consider your workplace by all accounts), and there is no way to tell how much your clothes will affect your productivity until you test it out.

We suggest trying out your own productivity hypothesis by wearing three different outfits, giving yourself a week to properly judge each and see which really gets you in the best work mindset.

Office clothes

Wear what you would normally wear to work, be it a business suit (minus the blazer). Although it might feel a little weird wearing it at home, give it a chance to see if you work better all put together — the way you would normally be at an office job.

Casual clothes

Your casual clothes should be comfortable, like jeans and a sweatshirt.


We’re not saying roll out of bed and start working — you should brush your teeth first. At least try getting up and wearing a different pair of pajamas for work.

Make sure to monitor your productivity when you wear each of these outfits. It’s a great way to determine what your personal uniform should be.

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